Hey, it is our little guy's birthday today, 4 years old. We miss you Mr. Bubby and love you deeply...
From the steppes of Kazakhstan…

The “steppes” the best we figure means the plains. The southeast part of Kazakhstan. This area has some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. We are now living in the steppes of central Kaz, in Arkalyk. Best known as the old cosmonaut space Center City we have found it’s actually miles away from town.

This used to be a large city in Soviet rule times. Since Kazakhstan’s independence in the early 1990’s declining economics have taken it’s toll. Two thirds of the city has left, leaving countless buildings vacant and deteriorating (not to be disrespectful but many parts just look like a war zone). Not many people own cars, the roads are horrendous the streets that are black topped would put Chicago to shame as far as potholes are concerned. Of course people live very, very modest lives. Though they are a very proud people that keep their Kazakh traditions, dress very well with suit coats, dress slacks, the European “pointy” shoes and are all made up. Every day you see them walking through the tattered old streets. I feel way underdressed wearing a pair of jeans in public.
Shopping consists of these small outdoor and indoor markets that have everything from air pumps to high-end jewelry (I needed an air pump to fix Habiba’s daughters bike).
The outdoor shops look almost like flea markets, carpets for sale on fences, ice cream in little stands (and is it good!) The indoor markets are all little stands with people selling everything. There is fresh fruit almost everywhere. My mother would love this shopping.

People with no jobs are paid to sweep the streets with these handmade straw brooms. They are everywhere, Habiba says the Mayor must be coming to town soon as there were more than usual sweepers.
Small amusement park in town...Ferris wheel with some cars
Sweepers
We think the children in the orphanage, in some cases are better taken care of then those in town. The baby house is located in the central part of town and seems to be accepted and just overlooked by passer-bys. There is a play area that is fenced off with the orphan children on one side and a public area on the other. The house has about 50 children under the age of four. After four years of age, they are moved to an older children’s house where we hear is not nearly as nice as the baby house.
These children in Aidana’s house have caregivers around the clock at a ratio of about one per ten kids, but we have seen many more caregivers with Aidana’s group. These women are the best, paid about half of what is the Arkalyk standard, we are guessing about $40.00 a month. You can see they care and treat the children as if they were their own. These are the kid’s “mommas” We have come to realize that when we take Aidana away, she will be leaving the only parental images they have ever known. She certainly will be grieving. (We are told by past adoptive parents that this does not last long and they are totally different once home.
Our Lifestyle:

We live in Hababia’s in-law's house, Habiba (spelled Khabiba) is our main coordinator, translator, provides drivers (me for now) and does all of the running around for documents etc. She is the main coordinator for this region, our escort to and from the baby house, and stays with us most always. Her and her family live on the main floor and we have two rooms on the second floor. We have a full bathroom that has hot water but after Marie gets into it, I grab the bottled water! It is quite cold for me. Her house is a 2 story, cement style. We have a bedroom on the second floor and a dining area, which I sit at my laptop nightly, most times until 1am typing this stuff. Electric is 200 volts and I have been reminded of this by burning out 2 battery chargers!
Habiba's House Our Bedroom Backyard View
Habiba, her husband Aidar and their two children “Alia” who is 5 years old, a cutie and their youngest daughter Nurbyke is 10 months old. They have a bedroom on our floor also. We type mostly at night if you want to call it that as I am sitting here and 10:30 and it is still daylight outside for another 30 minutes.

I brought bags of “freeze-dried” prepared foods as we have heard the food is exotic and they eat horsemeat here. I haven’t used a one yet! The food is something else. They hired a local woman named Maria to cook and care for the kids when Habiba is running us around. (she will also be in my suitcase when we leave. She cooks mainly Eastern European and some Asian meals. I thought I would certainly come back at least 20 pounds lighter but not a chance. We have has stuffed cabbage, hamburger patties, crepes, sausages, potato and meat dumplings, traditional Kazakh dishes with a rice base. We have stuck to bottled water as Habiba boils the water they use. We have not had a digestive problem yet. I can’t wait for breakfast!

In the beginning I would ask Habiba, jokingly as I pointed to the dish and ask, “beef”? As we pull into the driveway every evening we see their two goats in front of the house grazing (I have named then “lunch and supper”) as long as they are out there, I’m okay.

As for Our visit with Aidana today, it appears she gets bored sitting in the music room all the time so we started taking her for short walks outside and in the halls to see the babys. We have noticed she has her mother’s stubbornness and her daddy’s appetite! She only hid behind the couch once and at the end, ran to the fence in the yard to wave good bye to us with the other kids.

Bill/Marie

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Copyright Our Kazakh Angel 2005
Orphanage Kitchen & Aidana's Bedroom
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Copyright Our Kazakh Angel 2005